Volvo Ocean Race postpones start due to Tropical Cyclone Pam

Published on March 11th, 2015

Auckland, NZL (March 12, 2015) – Due to Tropical Cyclone Pam, Volvo Ocean Race organisers have decided that the fifth leg of the race will not start earlier than 14:00 NZ time / 01:00 UTC on Monday March 16. The 6,776 nm leg from Auckland, NZL to Itajaí, Brazil was scheduled to start on March 15.

A final decision will be made no later than 12:00 NZDT on Friday March 13 (23:00 UTC on Thursday 12 March) on whether the delay will be to 14:00 NZ time on Monday March 16 or later.

“We’re making this decision now because we don’t know the exact track of this tropical cyclone yet,” said Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad. “It’s unusually big and essentially it’s blocking the road for our sailors, so it’s prudent seamanship from our side to leave them with options. Our biggest concern is the sea state, rather than the wind. The boats can handle a lot of wind, but there will be very big waves along the New Zealand coast, with nowhere to hide.”

The In-Port Race will continue as scheduled on March 14 at 14:00 local NZ time, with current forecasts predicting perfect sailing conditions of 20kts of easterly breeze and warm sunshine.

As of early Thursday morning local time, Pam had strengthened to a Category 4 equivalent tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds estimated at 130 mph, about 740 miles northwest of Fiji, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Cyclone Pam is forecast to continue intensifying through Friday thanks to favorable winds aloft flowing outward from the center of circulation, and warm sea-surface temperatures along its path.

Pam may undergo a period of rapid intensification (an increase in the maximum sustained winds of at least 30 knots in 24 hours or less) at any time through Friday, a process difficult to forecast due to its dependence on smaller-scale fluctuations of the system’s inner-core convection.

A south-southwestward track is expected to bring the center of Cyclone Pam, or its eyewall, dangerously close to the eastern islands of Vanuatu Friday, local time. The Republic of Vanuatu is an island chain about 1,200 miles northeast of Brisbane, Australia, with a total population of around 224,000.

Vanuatu is about 1,500 miles northwest of Auckland, with the massive cyclone expected to curve southeast towards New Zealand, bringing high waves and heavy swells from North Cape down through the Bay of Plenty and along the East Coast on Sunday (Mar. 15). Auckland is located within this span.

It should transform into an ex-tropical cyclone as it moved towards New Zealand, with strong winds and rain to hit northern parts of the country, though its exact path was still unknown, MetService meteorologist John Law said.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty, but it is definitely a feature we’re keeping a very close eye on,” he said.

Pam was producing monster seas that were expected to extend to New Zealand, with swells and rips likely to be dangerous at North Island eastern and northern beaches.

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The fifth leg, from Auckland, NZL to Itajaí, Brazil (6,776 nm), begins March 15 with an ETA between March 31 and April 10. Race website: http://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html

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